It was August 1975 and the sun was shining. England were losing the Ashes to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, but nothing could detract from the enjoyment of a summer that would be but a prelude to the one the one the following year. The only fly in the ointment was a Roger Whittaker song, ‘The Last Farewell’.
Summer was a good time, autumn was not and Whittaker’s lyrics included,
I shall watch the English mist roll in the dale
How could anyone enjoy watching mist roll through a valley? On autumn mornings in our corner of England, the mist was a blanket of greyness that lay across the low lying moorland. It spread dampness over ever surface it touched. It penetrated and chilled and showed a reluctance to go elsewhere. If the temperature dropped below zero, the mist might become freezing fog, making progress difficult and dangerous.
Perhaps Whittaker envisaged something gentler. Leaves of ochre, red and gold, the scent of bonfire smoke on crisp mornings, walks through lanes and smoke from cottage chimneys, seemed more the stuff of romantic notions of misty valleys. Damp November mornings in Somerset would hardly have inspired a song lyric.
Had Whittaker sung about mist in the summertime though, the song would have had an altogether different mood; mist rolling in the valleys early on an August morning was the harbinger of bright days and blue skies. Late summer mist along Somerset lanes might be cool and damp but would fade to reveal lush green meadows or white fields of wheat or barley. Going through the mist, there would be glimpses of rabbits and pheasants running for cover from the oncoming car.
Mist could make familiar roads mysterious. Shapes would change; houses passed every day had a different air about them. Concentrating on the way ahead, attention might be drawn to things that had been previously slipped by unnoticed. It seemed odd that something that obscured things could sharpen your awareness of their existence. Mist demanded a sharpened concentration, an early morning drive on the motorway would be filled with spectral shapes appearing from behind only to hurry ahead without thought for safety. Pale red lights would mark dark shadows ahead that took on the form of vehicles as one drew nearer.
There was a paradox in the weather; summer mist was a shrouding, but also a foreshadowing of a glorious day.
The weather forecaster this evening warned of mist overnight that would be burned off in the heat of tomorrow morning’s sunshine, that’s the sort of mist about which Roger Whittaker should have sung.